I get a few messages now and then from people who’ve read my popular series on the Caveman Regimen but can’t quite bring themselves to commit to it.
They tend to be the guys who are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their acne, hopping from one product to the next and making impulse buy after impulse buy.
So I’ve put on my admittedly underused Thinking Cap and I’d like to make a suggestion to you, dear reader, who might be considering dropping your current wash-cleanse-moisturize-tone regimen entirely but might be experiencing a temporary courage failure.
And if you are hesitant about leaving behind your entire bathroom suite of acne fighting products for a regimen which doesn’t even allow you to use water, I completely understand.
I was too when I started, but I’d reached the point of exhaustion with a 20-minute, 7-stage routine comprising two to three cleansers in rotation, a shampoo I used on my face, two specialist creams and an obscenely expensive moisturizer which only came in tiny bottles.
So for me, stumbling on this post on the Caveman Regimen by a very talented acne blogger called Tracy Raftl (thelovevitamin.com) who does for thousands of women what I aim to do for you men, was a bit of a lightbulb moment.
It got me thinking about my own skin and the damage I was surely doing to my acid mantle. What if not allowing my skin to heal itself was the reason I was still getting acne?
I faced facts – what I was doing was not working. Nothing, up to that point, had worked. What did I have to lose? If my regimen wasn’t working, why not try the exact opposite?
While I suspect that if you’re reading this post you’re in exactly the same situation, nevertheless, if it’s not quite for you that’s fine.
Perhaps inserting a halfway step will show you that simplifying ain’t so bad.
Welcome to the Chris P. Trade Mark Half Caveman Regimen
Snappy name, huh. The CPTMHCR (let’s stick with Half Caveman Regimen) is going to be a three-day, three step cycle.
- Wash – Exfoliate (manually) – Moisturize
- Cleanse – Moisturize (a little)
- Wash only
Let’s break it down.
On the first day, you will firstly wash your skin with cool water. Not freezing cold, but not water which could be described in any way as “warm”.
This is to begin the process of allowing your skin to retain most of the sebum it produces to lubricate itself, so you aren’t stripping it dry every day and forcing it to keep pumping out oil in an attempt to redress the balance.
You will then take a simple, manual exfoliating product like Derma-Nu Men’s Exfoliating Facial Scrub. Ideally, choose something which contains those micro-bead things (natural ones though, not the plastic ones because they kill all the little fishes) and use it to gently scrub over your face.
Or better still, use a normal gentle cleanser like Cetaphil and lather it over your face as usual, but use a clean, soft but slightly abrasive washcloth to wash it off again.
The point here is manual exfoliation, rather than chemical, to try to remove anything which might clog your pores while at the same time reducing the volume of chemicals you’re applying to your skin.
After that, because you’ll have exposed a layer of fresh new skin, it’s sensible to apply a moisturizer, and I favor the one from Simple Skincare. It’s got vitamins in it and no perfumes or other junk you don’t need.
But I do want you to be honest with yourself and only apply a very thin layer – as little as you can get away with.
On the second day, we’re going to cut out a step.
Wash with cool water as on day one, but then just lather with Cetaphil or your usual cleanser and wash it off with cool water.
Now that you’re just using cool water, you might find that you don’t need to use a moisturizer at all, because all of the natural lubricants your skin produces are still there. If so, don’t use any – but if you do notice your skin still becomes dry, then use a very thin layer of moisturizer again.
On the third day, do nothing.
That’s right, nothing at all. No water, no cleanser, no moisturizer, no nothing.
If your skin feels greasy or oily, live with it. Embrace it. It’s your skin starting to find its natural balance again.
If that’s too much for your willpower to handle, just splash your face with cool water, or have a cold shower. Either way, there should be no need to moisturize at all.
On day four, you go back to day one’s routine and keep repeating the cycle for a month.
If after this month you notice some improvements in your acne, perhaps…
- You could skip day one, and just alternate days two and three
- You could add an “extra” day three, giving your skin two day’s with no products
And so on until eventually, you’ve weaned yourself off soaps, cleansers and creams for good, allowing your skin to heal itself without interference.
The benefits of cutting or eliminating topical acne products
The chief benefits I got from my water-free month were psychological. Breaking the dependence on my former product-heavy regimen and showing myself categorically that they didn’t help one iota was so incredibly satisfying and liberating.
And while it didn’t 100% clear my acne, it did put me on the right path – leading me, eventually, to consider taking much more notice of what I was putting into myself and the diet, vitamins, minerals and exercise which did get me clear.
Don’t get me wrong though, I did experience far less irritation and inflammation, and I had far fewer pimples. Those I did get were mainly small, barely noticeable whiteheads.
If you’re not quite ready to make the leap in one go, try this regimen for a month and see if it makes your acne better. In my opinion, if it doesn’t make it any worse you’ll at least have proved to yourself that you can get by on less, and perhaps that’ll be enough to convince you that you can go full Caveman and drop the products altogether.